Review of Gone Girl (book) by Gillian Murphy (SPOLIER KLAXON)

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Before we begin let me just explicitly say THIS IS A SPOILER WARNING. If you have any interest in reading Gone Girl then read this later because, this review is going to spoiler the hell out of the story. You have been warned.

Synopsis

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On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. One problem though Amy has disappeared and there are signs of a struggle.

Nick quickly becomes the number one suspect. He is the husband. He is bonking a 23 year old student of his and he is telling lots of petty small lies.

As it turns out though Nick is innocent. Amy is pulling the ultimate of long cons. Royally vexed at her husband for his philandering and other stuff (a lot of it very petty). She has carefully planned out how to fake death and has dropped Nick in the proverbial.

In the third act though things go truly bonkers. Nick knowing his wife’s supreme self-conceited nature begins giving interviews coded to get her to come back to him. Amy is at first just enjoys his suffering but then after being robbed she reaches out to a clingy ex-boyfriend Desi. Desi happily puts her up in his secluded beach house. Amy quickly realises she is now essentially in prison so she kills Desi frames him for rape and kidnap and returns to her husband determined to resurrect their marriage.

The story then ends with Amy using Nick’s sperm to get pregnant and thus blackmailing him into supporting her story and staying together in the ‘perfect’ marriage.

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Review

I’m going to start off with a couple of pieces of huge praise for Gone Girl. Gone Girl is 578 pages long I ploughed through it in maybe six hours of reading. I enjoyed it. I don’t tear through books like that if they aren’t good/fun.

I will temper this praise however, by saying that I knew before reading that there was a huge plot twist. I had an inclining what it was and so wanting to know the ‘answer’ to the plot was obviously a huge magnet to my attention. Had this incipient plot twist not been ever present then I would have probably took more time.

My second piece of praise is for the way the Amy character is written. The book is told through alternating monologues between Amy and Nick The first section of Amy’s diary entries, the fake ones, are written in such a way that at first I was like OMG this is soooo fake. It is soooo over the top and cliche ridden. I don’t really believe in this character except as a parody/comedy on modern dating.

This of course though is the point. The diaries are a fake. In fact they essentially a fake within a fake because, Amy is doctoring old diary entries to create a fake persona and frame Nick but these diary entries themselves were written the voice of another fake persona’s rather than Amy’s ‘true’ voice from part two onwards.

When Amy’s story catches up to Nick’s in the timeline then the switch into her authentic voice reads beautifully and fits in perfectly with the earlier diary entries.

Additionally, the self-absorption of Amy’s character is brilliantly written. At some point Nick says to his twin sister that Amy will believe his apologies and come back because, she truly and completely believes in her own perfection. This is true and comes across in the writing and it is this and only this that allows me to accept the high wire act that is built upon in the final third.

The Nick character however isn’t as well written as Amy. Dare I say that some of this is because, a female writer struggles to convincingly write a male character. Some of this is also because, Nick is a pretty pathetic character and Murphy’s characterisation of him never seems to fit.

Sometimes he is pathetic sneaking around to read old magazine stories he writes. Sometimes he is an alpha-male. Sometimes he is a beta-male. Sometime he is clever. Sometimes he comes across as an idiot.

In particular the ‘relationship’ between Nick and his dementia ridden Father is never believable. It reads likes someone wanting to comment on the sort of male-female dynamics the Guardian obsess over but it just never rings true to real life and it never adds anything to the plot.

Murphy uses it to stick a toe in the water of suggesting Nick is misogynistic but it is never ever taken far enough. Even when Nick is talking about the shape of Amy’s skull at the start of the novel I never believe this is a character ‘strong’ enough to murder another human being. For the plot of Gone Girl to really work the Nick character needs to have more menace.

Overall, I would recommend Gone Girl. In its format and tone is reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love save that it is more exciting and has a slightly more believable plot. Gone Girl is definitely worth a read and it is currently really cheap on amazon.

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